Ferguson: Jays have work cut out if they want a pitcher

Scott Ferguson
8/9/2013 11:52:44 AM
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You can debate long and hard over whether the Toronto Blue Jays' top priority in the offseason should be a catcher, a second baseman, a top of the rotation pitcher or all of the above. But for now, let's just look at how difficult it is to get a top-notch pitcher.

When the Blue Jays aquired the likes of Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Roger Clemens and even Doyle Alexander, it was through free agency. In the case of Morris and Stewart - besides the lure of big money contracts - it was the ability of Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick to convince them the Jays were on the verge of winning a World Series. It was somewhat the same with Clemens when he joined the team in 1997, though at the time there were those in the game who believed he had pitched his best years in Boston and was starting to slip.

Alexander was a struggling Yankees castoff who seemed to be near the end of the line. A.J Burnett was also a free agent.

Last winter, Alex Anthopoulos stunned the baseball world by trading for three 'quality' starters in 2 deals, getting Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins and R.A. Dickey from the Mets. Although those deals haven't exactly panned out, you still can't understate how incredible a feat it was to aquire three starters with such resumes in one offseason.

If you look back though over the Blue Jays' history, there aren't too many other top-end starters the team has been able to trade for. When they landed David Wells from the Yankees in the spring of 1999, it was Clemens himself who exercised a side deal with the Jays to force a trade. It was quality for quality.

The Blue Jays picked up Juan Guzman from the Dodgers in 1987 for second baseman Mike Sharperson. At the time of that deal though, Guzman was a month from turning 22 and didn't actually crack the Blue Jays roster until 1991.

David Cone is the only top notch starter the Jays traded for twice. In August of 1992, they got him from the Mets for Jeff Kent - who would later blossom into a star with the Giants - and outfielder Ryan Thompson. Cone left for Kansas City as a free agent after the Blue Jays won their first World Series, but the Jays got him back again in 1995 for David Sinnes, Tony Medrano and Chris Stynes - who never came close to what Cone was worth.

The Blue Jays' 1995 season crumbled despite all the springtime promise and the team shipped Cone to the Yankees in July for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon and Marty Janzen - three pitchers who didn't exactly have distinguished big league careers.

The point is that the Blue Jays have probably traded away more quality pitching than they have aquired through deals, including Guzman, Clemens and Roy Halladay.

If the Blue Jays go the free agent route in the offseason, the pickings are pretty slim. The Royals' James Shields, who's only 6-8 this season but still eats a lot of innings, is out there. But the team has a contract option for next season worth $12 million. The best of the rest include the Rangers' Matt Garza, the Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda (who's closing in on 40), the Reds' Bronson Arroyo and of course, A.J. Burnett - who opted out of his contract the first time he was with the Jays to sign with the Yankees.

I'd never bet against Alex Anthopoulos based on what he did last winter, but it's going to be a lot more difficult to get the pitcher the Blue Jays need this time around.
Elsewhere, catcher Travis D'Arnaud - one of the top prospects the Jays gave up to the Mets for Dickey - could play his first big league game for New York as soon as this weekend. Catcher John Buck, who also went to the Mets in that deal, and his wife are expecting a child any day now. D'Arnaud was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas this week in part so he would be in close proximity to Phoenix where the Mets are playing this weekend.
Yankee Stadium is the place to be Friday night and the whole weekend. Alex Rodriguez is playing in his first home series since returning to the lineup, and he's doing it against the team that knocked the Yankees out of the ALCS last fall. Not only that, the Tigers have won 12 straight and are pulling away in the American League Central.

The Yankees are on the verge of falling right out of the Wild Card chase, having dropped 14 of their last 20. How can you feel sorry for a team that's made it to the postseason in 17 of the last 18 seasons and had won at least 90 games in all but two of those campaigns? The Yankees fans figure to be in a foul mood, especially with New York Post headlines suggesting after just one bad season, New York is on the verge of becoming a Mets town again. C'mon.

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